As part of Blount Memorial’s ongoing commitment to make state-of-the-art cancer care available in Blount County, the Blount Memorial Cancer Center added a new TrueBeam® high-precision linear accelerator. This advanced non-surgical radiation therapy system treats cancer with speed and accuracy (while sparing healthy tissues and organs) and expands the kinds of cancer treatment available at Blount Memorial, explains Blount Memorial radiation oncologist and Cancer Center medical director Dr. Albert Petty.
“The new linear accelerator will dramatically reduce actual treatment times,” Petty says. “Patients won’t have to lie down on the table in an immobile position for as long a time as they did before. This will make treatments much easier for patients, particularly those who are doing longer treatments, such as stereotactic body radiotherapy for early stage lung cancer. That treatment typically takes us about 30 minutes and will be cut down to a few minutes with the new machine.”
Linear accelerator technology customizes high energy X-rays or electrons to conform to a cancerous tumor’s shape. The X-ray beams are precisely aimed and “shot” to destroy the cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue. Blount Memorial’s new machine features several built-in safety measures to ensure that it will not deliver a higher dose of radiation than prescribed.
In addition, since the new linear accelerator can target radiation beams with much greater precision than the Cancer Center’s previous machine, Blount Memorial will be able to expand its cancer treatment capabilities. Specifically, the Cancer Center plans to expand its radiosurgery program to treat brain tumors, particularly those which have spread to the brain from elsewhere in the body.
Adds Petty, “Using the radiosurgery technique, we are able to give just one or two treatments to a tumor in the brain rather than treat the whole brain. In the future, we will look to expand radiosurgery to tumors in the bone and other areas of the body.”
The new linear accelerator also enhances the accuracy of image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), a form of medical imaging used to plan, perform, and evaluate surgical procedures and therapeutic interventions. By quickly producing an image (called a ConeBeam CT, or computed tomography, scan) of the body, the linear accelerator provides Blount Memorial cancer specialists with the detailed information needed to precisely identify and treat a target.